Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Mike Huckaby, Maschine Demo at YouthVille Detroit

Just spent the evening at YouthVille Detroit, a not-for-profit community center for Detroit youth, ages 11-19. Here's a bit about YouthVille:

YouthVille Detroit is "a youth development center (not just a recreational facility) based on the belief that young people need: • A Safe Space • Responsible, caring adults engaged in their lives • To be intentionally involved in their own development • Broad supports and opportunities Communicating the concept of positive youth development as the mission of YouthVille Detroit was a key initiative. The inclusion of youth parents, teachers, school administrators, business leaders, legislators, and the governor brought commitments and enthusiastic support from various stakeholders in the Detroit community and southeastern Michigan."

Malik Alston & Mike Huckaby after the demo playing around.

Mike Huckaby offers regular courses there in music production. Kyle Hall got his start at YouthVille in Huckaby's class, and eventually started teaching on his own there for a time. Tonight was a demo offered by Mike Huckaby for free (a relatively regular occurrence here in Detroit!) of Maschine by Native Instruments. If you want to know more about Maschine, just click back there. I'm going to tell you about the event. I went because I think it's so great that these types of events happen in Detroit - free, no registration, open to all, just come together and hang out and learn about music production. I'm not a producer, not a DJ, not even a collector...of anything. I'm telling you that so that you'll understand where I'm coming from. I'm a lover of this music, this place, culture, and people. And I write. Mike is clearly devoted to educating people and sharing knowledge. Check out this article by Brendan M. Gillen about him. And this rad LWE podcast. And this Red Bull Music Academy mix. All dope ass hotness. And for the demo, he prepared a file titled "dope ass pattern for demo." It was Dope. Ass.

The room was full when I got there. I was a bit late, had to wait for my man to come home from work. Those kids can't watch theyselves! Anyway, the room was packed with incredible musicians and DJs. Anthony Shake Shakir, Kelli Hand, Eric Johnson, Raymond Jones (DJ Raybone), Rick Wade, Delano Smith, Malik Alston, Mike Grant, Kero of Kero Logistics, and Michael Geiger. Walter Wasacz was in the house as well. And devotees to Detroit, social visionaries Shay Maxwell and Jay Newhouse showed some love. You'll certainly be hearing more about them soon...

Side of YouthVille on Lothrop Road, Detroit.

One of Mike Huckaby's audio files for Maschine was called "dubstep kit" - I really wanted to know what that sounded like!!! Probably awesome. He had a YouthVille student of his on his keyboard assisting with the demo. There was discussion of sampling. Let me just say, when you're an academic, any discussion of sampling always involves some DETAILED, LENGTHY discussion of legal issues. And sure, that's important. But it's damn refreshing to just listen to musicians talk about using sounds. Oh, and Mike described some of his samples as "nonsensical samples" that he would use to turn into something fabulous (my words, not his!). Some of these nonsensical samples had the words "dirty electro" in the title - Dirty Electro! As he flipped through them, I got excited over the dirt. Finally, he described his synthesizer from an unmentioned Dutch company with whom he may customize his own its own special color. The Huck Synth (again my words, not his...).

It was really lovely to be at YouthVille - my first visit. Detroit is such a great place. Whenever I visit, it's hard for me to leave. I just want to go hang out in all the places I really love. I don't live that far away. Ann Arbor is about 40 minutes away. I just really like a lot of things about Detroit.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Arthur Russell

Watch this please: Wild Combination: A Portrait of Arthur Russell

Excellent film about musician Arthur Russell.

Then you can read this: Hold On to Your Dreams: Arthur Russell and the Downtown Music Scene, 1973-1992 by Tim Lawrence.

From the Duke University Press website:

Hold On to Your Dreams is the first biography of the musician and composer Arthur Russell, one of the most important but least known contributors to New York’s downtown music scene during the 1970s and 1980s. With the exception of a few dance recordings, including “Is It All Over My Face?” and “Go Bang! #5,” Russell’s pioneering music was largely forgotten until 2004, when the posthumous release of two albums brought new attention to the artist. This revival of interest gained momentum with the issue of additional albums and the documentary film Wild Combination. Based on interviews with more than seventy of his collaborators, family members, and friends, Hold On to Your Dreams provides vital new information about this singular, eccentric musician and his role in the boundary-breaking downtown music scene.

Tim Lawrence traces Russell’s odyssey from his hometown of Oskaloosa, Iowa, to countercultural San Francisco, and eventually to New York, where he lived from 1973 until his death from AIDS-related complications in 1992. Resisting definition while dreaming of commercial success, Russell wrote and performed new wave and disco as well as quirky rock, twisted folk, voice-cello dub, and hip-hop-inflected pop. “He was way ahead of other people in understanding that the walls between concert music and popular music and avant-garde music were illusory,” comments the composer Philip Glass. “He lived in a world in which those walls weren’t there.” Lawrence follows Russell across musical genres and through such vital downtown music spaces as the Kitchen, the Loft, the Gallery, the Paradise Garage, and the Experimental Intermedia Foundation. Along the way, he captures Russell’s openness to sound, his commitment to collaboration, and his uncompromising idealism.

It really is an excellent read. Fascinating details framed by skilled story telling by Lawrence and by everyone he interviewed. Lawrence gives insight into how he approached this project in the preface, telling the reader how he knows what he knows. He explained the challenges in writing a book about a person he could no longer interview. A man who did very few interviews while he was alive. It's refreshing to read about these details and issues of conducting research because it allows the author and reader to really think about and understand how this kind of research and writing gets turned into a book. It also removes a bit of the authority of the author, in a good sense, and acknowledges in a more public way, all the people who contributed to the construction of this story.

On a personal note, the historical connections between New York's downtown music scene of the 1970s and 1980s and the modern dance scene of this time period were a sweet surprise. I've been a dancer since I could walk and spent some time as a teenager studying modern dance history - learning about innovative and experimental choreographers and dancers in New York City. As it turns out, Arthur Russell often played music with many of these dancers, or at least played in the same performance spaces. The Kitchen in particular is a notable performance space for experimental music and dance during this time period. And the overlap with dancers and choreographers like Stephen Petronio, Trisha Brown, and Wendy Perron was totally unexpected when this book came home from the library.

Really excellent read. Wonderful history. I even cried in chapter 7.

And now for some listening:

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Especially Good

Especially Good is a band from Detroit consisting of Julio Efrain Dominguez, Paul Kiry, and Joseph Flis. I saw them play for a lousy 20 minutes last night at Savoy in Ypsilanti, MI. They are especially fucking ridiculously excellent. I know, total cheese that I'm using half their band name to describe them. Or steeze, your choice.

There's clearly no lack of funk going on here. The reason I only got to hear them for 20 minutes is not because I was late, but because they were crammed in with a bunch of other bands. It was a release party for Especially Good's 7 inch on Party Ngg. You can get this solid piece of vinyl at Encore Recordings in Ann Arbor. The original idea for this event was for Wolf Eyes and Especially Good to play and Todd Osborn and Carlos Souffront would provide selections in between. Things changed and the event grew to include lots of other interesting bands and performers, including Amanda & Joey, Duane, Bad Party, and Moon Pool and Dead Band. Carlos did not DJ because of an injury, but Todd played, selections were excellent as always.

The only thing lacking from Especially Good's performance was that I could not hear Julio's voice. I honestly could have listened to them for the entire night. 4 or 5 hours. I don't even care if they repeat songs, it was that good. And it was my birthday party too, no one else really knew that it was, but I knew! What a gift. I experienced some mild, amicable mind melting - you know, the kind of feeling that stirs in your chest, you can't stop smiling, and lasts the longest in your head so that the next morning, you wake up happy. And there's something great about watching some burly guy playing hard, funky music, standing at a synthesizer on a delicate stand (no matter the quality of the instrument stand, it always looks that way to me, funny) and reading song lyrics from varying sized pieces of paper and a cell phone. I really do love that. Reminds me of seeing Ectomorph live at Oslo last year sometime and Erika Sherman had notes written on tiny pieces of paper and she used a little flash light to squint at them. Not notes for lyrics or anything vocal, notes for her drum machine and other equipment.

Especially Good is supposed to have some vinyl coming out on FIT distribution in Detroit soon...I'll be waiting! They are also working with Cornelius Harris of Alter Ego Management and Submerge...yes, that's exciting...more vinyl releases. Cornelius was there and we talked about being into all kinds of different music and how bringing it together can be so great. Yet another music visionary!